High mountain roads, steep cliffs and pizza in Valle del Po
The Valle del Po has its highest point at the foot of the mighty Monviso transitions into the Po flatlands in Saluzzo. There is no way to get over to France (except on foot and maybe a mountain bike) leading to the main road on the valley floor to be mostly quiet. And with the tunnel into France south of Cuneo also closed the area is less frequented by tourists right now. As a result the only other non-locals we met were a few older Italian couples and their dogs - refreshing after the hustle and bustle of the Ligurian coast before.
Before coming here we did not make too many plans and the only thing I had really earmarked was a ride up to the Pian del Re refuge. This refuge at 2.020 meters above sea level can actually be reached via a very small road which is stunning especially on the last few kilometers (which in turn are also the steepest). The day I rode up there were low hanging clouds giving the mountains an eerie vibe but also obscuring the view of the main star: Monviso.
Luckily on a later day I rode up to Pian Muné under clear skies and with perfect views of that mighty mountain. Muné is a small ski resort and sort of the perfect training climb with 12 kilometers at 7% on good tarmac.
Right before our time in the Valle del Po we visited Cuneo where we also picked up the climbing guide for the Monviso region - a bit of a scavenger hunt but we were lucky at a very cool bookshop called Ippogrifo at the end. The climbing laid out in this book is enough for a few years at least and we picked out two areas to sample. We visited a small area close to the camp ground where we stayed - good but not great.
However the main attraction was Monte Bracco with its dozens of sectors and hundreds of single and multi pitch routes. As we drove up the incredibly steep and small road to the parking at the foot of Monte Bracco it quickly became clear that the south facing walls would be scorching hot and we started believing the note in the guide that this area is best visited in winter. After some back and forth I headed up (about 300 meters of elevation) alone to do a quick run on a fairly easy (French 4c) fourth pitch line called La Certezza rope solo. It was hot but worth it with quality climbing, views for days and being all alone on the mountain
All in all we spent three days here during our three week trip through the south western alps and I already have made a note of a few things I would like to tackle in the region - climbing Monviso being high on the list.
If you are looking for an alpine playground that is quiet and provides just enough infrastructure I would strongly recommend putting the Valle del Po on the list of options!